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  • Design for Living (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Design for Living (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]


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Design for Living (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + Ministry of Fear (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Product Details

  • Actors: Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Miriam Hopkins, Edward Everett Horton, Jane Darwell
  • Directors: Ernst Lubitsch
  • Format: Blu-ray, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: December 6, 2011
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005ND8812
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,557 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

The Clerk, starring Charles Laughton

Selected-scene commentary by film professor William Paul

Play of the Week: A Choice of Coward, a 1964 British television production

New interview with Joseph McBride on Lubitsch

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Kim Morgan


Editorial Reviews

Gary Cooper (High Noon), Fredric March (The Best Years of Our Lives), and Miriam Hopkins (Trouble in Paradise) play a trio of Americans in Paris who enter into a very adult “gentleman’s” agreement, in this continental pre-Code comedy freely adapted by Ben Hecht (Notorious) from a play by Noël Coward (Brief Encounter), and directed by Ernst Lubitsch (Trouble in Paradise). A risqué relationship comedy and a witty take on creative pursuits, it concerns a commercial artist (Hopkins) unable—or unwilling—to choose between the equally dashing painter (Cooper) and playwright (March) she meets on a train en route to the City of Light. Design for Living is Lubitsch at his most adroit, an entertainment at once debonair and racy, featuring three stars at the height of their allure.

Customer Reviews

On this note, I feel like I should clarify something.
D. Yarbrough
Even in today's society where you may see the banal gigolo with his women, in this case, its two men who love the same woman and woman who loves both men.
Dennis A. Amith (kndy)
Thankfully Lubitsch, well-known for his sophisticated film making style, was able to make this delight prior to the enforcement of the production code.
J. F. McCausland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 74 people found the following review helpful By D. Yarbrough on October 3, 2011
Verified Purchase
**EDIT 12-6-11** Overall, I'll say that Criterion did a great job on the restoration and transfer of this 1933 classic. I would describe the picture quality as very good, not perfect, but very good. Signs of aging are still evident throughout the film (mainly vertically running scratches), but not to the extent of distracting or taking away from the viewing experience. Quality-wise, this is the clearest, most crisp version of this film that I have viewed.

Based on the Broadway hit by legendary playwright Noël Coward, Design for Living is an excellent Pre-Code comedy from the always daring Paramount Pictures. Directed by the great Ernst Lubitsch, the film provides us with a refreshing look at the way American films were made before being heavily censored by the enforcement of the Hays Code in 1934. With the help of a risqué script from Hollywood veteran Ben Hecht, the director adds his famous "Lubitsch touch" to give us a very witty and fluid movie starring three of the biggest stars of the period. Gary Cooper, Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins have great chemistry together and really help to convey the message of the filmmakers - you only live once so do what makes you happy, regardless of how others view you.

In its day, Design for Living was very controversial for two reasons. The first and most obvious reason being the very risqué plot involving a ménage-à-trois relationship between three young Americans living in Paris. This film really took a jab at the morals and virtues that certain groups, namely the Legion of Decency, were trying to infuse back into American cinema. The second reason is that many people, including Noël Coward, were upset that screenwriter Ben Hecht retained only one line from the original play.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Reine des Coeurs VINE VOICE on November 22, 2011
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Amazing Pre-Code film that I'm ecstatic to see has been selected by Criterion for this DVD release. I've been a fan of this particular genre for over a decade and when asked by friends to pick a movie that would help introduce them to the best of the Pre-Code releases in existence and release, I almost always pick "Design for Living".

Everything is just spot on - excellent performances, witty banter and a most unusual (yet completely plausible) exploration of the very nature of love and commitment. While missing some of the more naughty innuendo of the original Coward production, it still contained enough sex, sophistication and above all and at the heart of the film, a loving trio, to become one of the pinnacle films to sound the death knell on the pre-Hays freedom days and put into action the Production Code.

The bare bones of the story goes like this - girl (Gilda) meets boys (Tom & George) on a train. The three start off as friends and I'll leave it at that. Any more would completely ruin the plot and though you can probably guess what happens next, this is a movie that should be seen, savored and enjoyed piece by piece and scene by scene. I must say though, if put in Gilda's situation and forced to choose between Frederic March and Gary Cooper at the height of their talents, handsomeness and charm, why not establish 'a gentleman's agreement', particularly when one of the trio is most notably not a gentleman?

Directed masterfully by Ernst Lubitsch from Ben Hecht's adaptation of Noel Coward's play, this is definitely more than a light, screwball comedy. It's one of the best, most sophisticated and unconventional romances you'll ever see on screen. Even for a modern audience, the theme is not outdated, which just goes to show how ahead of the curve many Pre-Code films were even when seen through our 21st century eyes. One has to wonder just how many more gems such as this we might have gotten, had the Code not crashed the party.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alfred Johnson on May 10, 2012
Noel Coward, at least in the New York theater scene, is having something of another revival which prompted me to take a second, or maybe third look, at his work. No question he had a serious sense of plot and language when it came to writing "manner" plays addressing "high society (or what passed for high society in his day)," a look at that society from one who came to appreciate its frills and follies from a personal past of barely rubbing two nickels together. That is the case here with the film adaptation of the somewhat autobiographical sketch play, Design for Living (along some material help from his coming up from obscurity friends, the actors Lunt and Fontaine).

As with many adaptations from books or plays the relationship to the original source can be, well, attenuated as it is here, at least according to Mr. Coward, on the use of dialogue. But the general plot outline is similar- two guys, two artsy guys (one Gary Cooper who passes for the Midwestern All-American boy complete with ah shuck) and a world-weary gal get all balled up in a threesome, a love triangle, comedic or not, and for a while nobody could win. It all gets sorted out by the end but not before what passed for 1930s humor, including deadpan and slapstick humor, got a workout. This one is probably too tame for today's audiences having seen every kind of social possibility on the screen by now but in the 1930s this was, and rightly so I think, regarded as sophisticated comedy, and certainly the subject matter raised eyebrows. Not the best Coward (or Cooper and March) but interesting.
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